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Updated March 25, The grotty bedrooms and dingy hallways that make up Indonesia's red light capital are a far cry from the way sex is presented in popular fiction and glossy magazines. Far from finding liberation, the women here are in the business for survival, writes Amy Bainbridge. A few weeks ago, one of the Sunday newspaper magazines devoted its entire issue to sex. It was in a Fifty Shades of Grey theme. There was a profile on Richard Pratt's former mistress and her business achievements.
There were scantily clad women who might have been teenagers wearing racy bondage-themed outfits with thigh-high lace up boots. There was article after article about sex, being sexy and feeling sexual. As I cast that magazine aside, I thought it was a bit over the top. But I didn't give the magazine a second thought until today. I'm in Indonesia filming stories on a trip that is sponsored by DFAT as part of a journalism fellowship.
One of the stories I'm doing is on prostitution. It's not surprising that the reality of the industry here is an ugly contrast to the glossy, glamorous pages I was thumbing through a few weeks ago. I'm writing this from the city of Surabaya, the so-called sex capital of Indonesia. To film this story, I've visited the city's red light district. There are many, many sad stories here. I've interviewed a prostitute who's trying to make ends meet for her two children back in her village.
I met a teenager who's just given up the trade at the age of I've spoken to a year-old girl who has quit sex work, and is now trying to encourage others to get out. None of the girls spoke fondly of their work. None were well-paid. Rather than feeling like the money they earned empowered them, they were scratching to survive.
Their careers are so vastly different to that of Richard Pratt's mistress, the successful businesswoman in the pages of that magazine. There are some 20, women working in the sex industry here, across four main red light districts. Countless non-government organisations are monitoring prostitutes and trying to help them find other jobs.